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Amy Schneider's 40-game Jeopardy! winning streak was a "tremendous, generous gift to America"

  • The winningest woman in the history of Jeopardy! and nearly the winningest contestant of all time "was not just a transgender TV star, she was 'a smart, confident woman doing something super normal,'" says Monica Hesse. "Schneider is transgender, and the most monumental thing to note about this is that it wasn’t treated as monumental," says Hesse. "There were no public hissy fits, no tedious pontificating from the Piers Morgans of the world. There was nobody fretting that the children might be seeing this (if your children are watching Jeopardy! of their own volition, then congratulations). There was only a middle-aged woman on a middle-aged show, correctly answering clues about the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, or the British adventurer Robert Falcon Scott...As the days and the big wins went on, Schneider became a fixture in the nanasphere (grandma’s kitchen TV, the activity room at the senior center), charming even the demographic that might be prompted to disparage people like her. Her winning streak encompassed the holiday season, when families gather and would give anything to talk about something besides politics. Schneider wore a trans pride flag pin as Thanksgiving approached — signaling to LGBTQ folks, in a small but vital way, that she would be at that table with you, even if you were not at the table with your family. Been there, she seemed to saying. She was not an ad campaign. The small miracle was how she came out of the blue, sui generis. The bigger miracle, by far, was how good she was at playing Jeopardy!, something everyone thinks they can do until they are standing there with that clicker in their hands. And as she kept winning, viewers everywhere became invested in her victories. How much more fun is it to root for someone rather than reject them?...She shared her whole self, and this was her tremendous, generous gift to America. She would not allow the country to think of her merely as a transgender woman or merely as a Jeopardy! champion. Instead, with little fanfare, she made sure the two identities were linked. To the viewing public of a country that still regularly dehumanizes transgender individuals — via humiliating bathroom bills, via harmful stereotypes, via disgraceful statistics related to homelessness, poverty, sexual assault — Schneider was relentlessly human." Hesse adds: "A shift in culture is a lot to ask from a game show, or one of its contestants. But maybe, beyond the record-breaking and the cash winnings, her lasting legacy is actually this: This wonderful idea that you never know who you might meet, and what you might learn, if you just tune in to the world around you."


    • Amy Schneider helped revolutionize how trans people are viewed on TV: "LGBTQ+ representation on TV has taken decades," says Peter-Astrid Kane, who competed on Jeopardy! 20 years ago, years before coming out as trans and non-binary. "An overreliance on dull stereotypes meant that things that now seem cringe were taken as groundbreaking — and lazy writing has a long lag time. This is particularly true for transgender representation, even on 'progressive' shows. It’s stunning how transphobic 30 Rock and The L Word could be." Kane adds: "There was a time when simply having any transgender people on television was practically unheard of outside of Maury Povich or a lurid B-plot about homicidal sex workers on a police procedural. Those were typically played by cisgender male actors, there was always some form of moral panic about genitals, and everybody involved was laboring overtime to make sure that America understood that trans people were deceitful and tragic if not murderous. There are times when I beat myself up a little that it took me until I was 39 to come out as nonbinary and trans, but then I remember those 'Finkle is Einhorn' scenes from Ace Ventura and I go a little easier on myself." As Kant points out, there's a "sly unimpeachability to (Schneider's) achievement. The discourse surrounding trans people in athletics has become polluted by faux-intelligent mansplaining about 'chromosomal sex,' usually from YouTube University dropouts who then move on to mRNA-vaccine conspiracies, plus the awful Caitlyn Jenner popping off about how trans girls should compete in boys’ sports even as she jets off to another women’s golf tournament. There’s no way for such nonsense to gain purchase on a gender-inclusive playing field like Jeopardy!, especially with Amy Schneider outsmarting everybody for an Old Testament-sounding period of 40 days and 40 nights. Her visibility is high, but the stakes for public policy are low."
    • Schneider is staying at her day job "for the moment": "I’m looking forward to having some time to sit down and process everything," Schneider told Buzzfeed News. "One thing that is nice is I don’t have to keep anything a secret anymore. That was a real struggle these last three months...Beyond that, it means that I’ve got some freedom now. I’m staying at my current job for the moment — just in case my employer is watching — but I’m looking at what other opportunities are out there. I’m going to see what develops. If I do decide I want to seek a career change of any kind, I’ve got a little cushion to take that chance."
    • Schneider says getting to meet Euphoria's Hunter Schafer "meant so much" to her: "I was lucky enough to meet Hunter Schafer at a publicity event for the first season, which was such a highlight," said Schneider of Schafer, who is also transgender. "Seeing her, in particular, recently has meant a lot — just seeing her introduced and her trans (identity) being secondary. I really liked the work that they've done with her."
    • Read the goodbye essay Schneider wrote for Jeopardy!'s website
    • How Schneider's pearl necklace helped her make Jeopardy! history
    • Schneider breaks down her final Jeopardy! episode, which came after lunch and was the third taping of the day
    • Schneider says she may write a book
    • Schneider confirms she was paid her Jeopardy! winnings on Wednesday
    • Rhone Talsma may audition for Survivor after dethroning Schneider

    TOPICS: Amy Schneider, Jeopardy!, Hunter Schafer, Rhone Talsma, Game Shows, LGBTQ